June 2019 Update - Lesley

The Lord shall guide you continually and shall satisfy your soul in dry places; your strength shall be renewed, and you shall be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never disappoint. Your sons shall rebuild the ruins of former years and shall revive the foundations of old, and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets in which to dwell.
— Isaiah 58:11 – 12 (Revised Berkeley Translation)

Dear friends,

It’s been quite an interesting couple of months since I last sent out a newsletter.

One of the major ‘events’ we had to deal with in May was that one day while sorting out some things in our clothing store room, (a stand-alone building about 12m x 6m) one of our older girls, Linda, and I found a freshly shed snake skin in a box of clothing. Snakes are not that uncommon but this was a big one…a 2.2 metre long black mamba skin. Mambas are deadly and there is no anti-venom in the country. Snakes in the wild are one thing, but in a confined space full of boxes of clothes in a building all too close to our Baby Unit it’s a different story. Our maintenance men cut down all of the overhanging trees which we thought might be giving the snake an entry point and we called in a snake expert who, with the help of our men, cleared and checked loads of boxes and then temporarily stored them in our library while snake traps were set in the clothing store. Despite baiting them with live squirrels, which most uncooperatively kept escaping, and live chicks, which stayed put and cheeped away tantalisingly all night, the snake was never caught. We can only assume that it was outside hunting when the men cut down the tree branches and then couldn’t find a way back into its cosy sleeping place and so has relocated…far, far away from our Baby Unit and clothing store …we hope!

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Just over 23 years ago when we opened our special care Baby Unit and took in our first three little ones, Chipo was one of those babies. I remember so clearly her wearing a little frilly yellow dress the day we collected her from the hospital. Now all these years later, the first weekend in June saw Fiona and me heading to the city of Mutare to celebrate with her as she graduated from Africa University with a B.Sc. in Psychology. What a special time it was. Fi and I caused considerable amusement to those sitting near us when we leaped up to ululate and cheer for her in true Shona style as she was ‘capped’. Not what they expected from the only white ‘mothers’ in a crowd of over 5,000, but there was no way we were going to be ‘British’ when Montgomery’s first university graduate was being honoured!

Chipo returned home with us and on the Sunday evening our church youth group surprised her with a party to honour her achievement. They took the initiative, funded and cooked a wonderful meal, decorated the dining room and blessed her with a gift. Lots of speeches, lots of fun and laughter; and a wonderful sense of ‘family’!

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Chipo is now living in Harare where she is working as a counsellor at ARC, the Adult Rape Clinic. Such a blessing that she has found employment when so many of her fellow graduates are still unable to find positions .

Meanwhile we continue to press on through the national shortages.

One of the major difficulties the whole country has been experiencing over this past couple of months has been excessively long electricity cuts, often lasting 18 hours a day, every day. Sadly this is not likely to be a short term thing. Unusually low rainfall resulted in low water levels at the main hydro-electric plant in Kariba, poor maintenance of the coal powered generators in Hwange causes frequent breakdowns, millions of dollars are owed to other countries for already received electricity….. just some of the causes. So we are all trying to adjust our daily schedules considerably in order to work around the few hours each day that we can afford to run our generator.

Quite often we have had no telephone communication either as the transmitter that covers our area runs on diesel and the telephone company keep running out of fuel to power it!

To say that it is difficult trying to juggle things around these issues would be an understatement. Don’t ever take for granted your electricity and telephone signal!

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Then a few weeks ago the country ran out of bread flour. No bread available anywhere, though plenty of cakes and buns! (Figure that?!) Whether or not it was the much maligned Marie Antoinette who said it, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” does rather seem to fit the situation!

So we’ve had to quickly re-think what we do about the children’s packed lunches for school. I am grateful for our ever-resourceful senior cook who came up with some workable plans and with various readjustments to the menu we are still managing to maintain a balanced diet for the children…and no, we have not just “Let them eat cake.”!

The patience and resilience of the average Zimbabwean with all of these problems continues to amaze me, but this week the nation has been hit with yet another man-made crisis which has really rocked the nation and one wonders whether this might just be the tipping point.  

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For some time now Zimbabwe has had a multi-currency economy, with the US dollar being the most commonly used foreign currency. Week by week the local Bond or RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) dollar has been losing value, and  with the exchange rate increasingly being governed by the black market, prices in Bond/RTGS have continued to rise, while by contrast quite often US prices have been lower than for years. On Monday morning, with no prior warning whatsoever, the government introduced a Statutory Instrument which, with immediate effect, made trading in any currency other than Bond/RTGS illegal. This caused mass panic everywhere with people rushing to banks to try to draw out cash from their foreign currency accounts, many banks shutting their doors, shops closing because they didn’t know how to re-price their goods etc.. Neither we nor anyone else we have talked to have any idea what to do or how it is going to work out. Theoretically, once everything settles down this decision could possibly help stabilise the economy but without having had any time to prepare for the change everything is currently in turmoil, and with a history of so much rampant corruption in high places, people have lost trust in even seemingly sensible policies.

And so it all goes on….

Psalm 143: 8 stood out to me very strongly earlier this week: Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Only God knows the way through this mess and so we continue to look to Him for day to day guidance.

It feels as though we are in a long night of shortages, difficulties, confusion and turmoil…but the morning will surely come.

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In the middle of all of this we recently received some wonderful news that has felt like a little glimpse of dawn.

Some months back, before the power crisis started to affect the nation, a friend in Harare contacted us to say that his company which deals in solar powered energy, had been partnering with one of Germany’s biggest solar companies on some installations at a mission hospital. The German company wanted to further invest into Zimbabwe by donating into another project and he wondered if we’d be interested. Interested?! Ha!

This week he and a colleague came out to finalise a few details and told us that a team will be coming out from Germany in September to install as a gift to us a tailor-made solar unit to power our three boreholes and provide lighting for our children’s houses. This has come as such an encouragement in a very difficult time.

Finally…I thought I’d been doing pretty well ‘keeping all of the balls in the air’ during this past few days of chaos but maybe I haven’t looked as strong, calm and healthy and as I thought. Ruvarashe, aged 9, brought me a picture she’d coloured last evening when she came to give me a goodnight hug. She’d written on it: ‘Dear Miss Masho I love you so much becouse you love me to. I want you to love me I want yo to not die. Thank you’

Didn’t think I looked quite that bad! Am I weary? Yes a little. Am I worried? Not really. Do I know what to do? No, I haven’t a clue! Quite frankly it’s all too much for any one of us to try to figure out. We are just trying with His help, to keep things as settled as we can for the family here and waiting it all out until the full dawn breaks.

 So greatly appreciate your prayers for the nation as a whole and for the Montgomery family specifically.

Lesley

January 2018 Update - Lesley

The Lord shall guide you continually and shall satisfy your soul in dry places; your strength shall be renewed, and you shall be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never disappoint. Your sons shall rebuild the ruins of former years and shall revive the foundations of old, and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets in which to dwell.
— Isaiah 58:11 – 12 (Revised Berkeley Translation)

Dear friends,

No doubt those of you who follow the international news are aware of the situation that Zimbabwe once again finds itself in: violent protests across the country, a three day national shut-down, supposed to end tomorrow, (but now that ‘Pandora’s box’ has been opened, will it?), internet blocked (ours, being run through a Belgian satellite, is still fully operational) etc, etc. Doom and gloom! Here we go again!

Much prayer needed for a peaceful resolution to the increasing mess.

However, here at Montgomery we are fine. We have felt the effects of the crisis but they have only been inconveniences really which we have adapted to…inability to get into Harare for hospital appointments and purchasing supplies, the children’s schools all shut down, delays in some maintenance work we’d planned, etc. Nothing insurmountable and in fact the children think it’s rather wonderful not having to go to school, especially our triplets, Melissa, Melody & Molline who seem to think they were given a holiday especially to celebrate their 7th birthday yesterday! 

Christmas, which seems an eternity ago now, was as always a great time at Montgomery Heights. Thanks to the generosity of so many of you, the children had a wonderful time. The fun started as usual when an excited ‘delivery team’ gathered outside my house on Christmas Eve to transport huge boxes of gifts to each house. BTW, Len’s white goatee was not grown for the occasion; it’s plastic and attached to the red Christmas spectacles!

A number of our older family, who are now working and living elsewhere, came home to share the time with us and Christmas Day saw me once again donning the chef’s hat to cook lunch for 84 - this year thankfully with a steady electricity supply! Wonderful teamwork made the huge task not only possible but great fun, even the washing up!

One thing that always really blesses and encourages me on these exhausting occasions is the real sense of ‘family’ that manifests itself so clearly. The government insist on referring to us as ‘an institution’, which makes many of our teenagers quite cross! ‘This is not an institution!’ one recently said indignantly, ’Montgomery Heights is a family!’ and Christmas demonstrates this so well.

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Something else that has really encouraged us over these past few weeks is the generosity of the local Zimbabweans. These are incredibly difficult times for everyone in the country and yet so many have looked beyond their own needs and reached out to bless our family. I mentioned in my pre-Christmas letter that we were due to collect a donation of ice-cream, cheese and yoghurt. We went expecting 200 yoghurts which seemed rather a lot but were given 500…the children are still eating them! Then a number of different people donated loads of snacks, sweets and fizzy drinks to help increase our annual ‘junk food intake’.

As a rather interesting balance to this, a dental technician from a nearby hospital donated her time and skill to come over just after Christmas and carry our dental checks on all of our children. Most encouragingly we were complimented on the excellent state of our children’s teeth. She even checked all of the staff many of whom unfortunately did not get the same commendation!

On New Year’s Day a group of ladies in Harare, only two of whom are known to us, clubbed together to pay for a huge bouncy castle to be brought out to us for the day. The weather forecast was rather daunting, with heavy rain predicted but we prayed and the sun shone throughout the day with rain only coming late in the evening. The children had a wonderful time…as did Fiona! Never being one for trampolines, rope bridges or anything remotely unstable under my feet, I opted to supervise and watch from a safe distance!

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Then just a couple of days ago we received a call from a business-man in Harare to tell us that he has organised for yet another bouncy castle and a huge water-slide to come for the day this coming Saturday and will also be bringing a special lunch for the whole family as well.  Such a blessing for the children, though rest assured I shall remain at a safe distance with my feet on solid ground, unless, of course, I am called upon to restrain the nurse!

To be honest life in Zimbabwe at the moment feels a bit like we are all on a bouncy castle…everything is completely unstable and there’s no way to tread firmly anywhere. But we continue to have a great sense of excitement about what God is going to do. Without a doubt there are very difficult times ahead for Zimbabwe but we are holding on to two specific words which the Lord has spoken to us for 2019:  ‘If you believe, you will see the glory of God’ (John 11: 40) and ‘Lord, I believe, help me overcome my unbelief’ (Mark 9: 24). Pray for us!

The greater the impossibility, the greater the opportunity for miracle!

Lesley

December 2018 Update - Lesley

Dear friends,

With Christmas almost upon us I just wanted to share one last update on Montgomery life for 2018.

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Firstly, a very big thank you to everyone who contributed financially and ‘in kind’ towards gifts for the children. In spite of the continuing economic and supply problems in the country, due to your generosity we have managed to put together packages which we believe will delight the children next week…toys, books, clothes, back-packs, sandals and of course, the most important thing (to them anyway!), sweets and chocolates. Their gifts are now all packed and ready to be distributed to the respective houses on Christmas Eve.

It has really been a source of amazement to us just what we have managed to access in the current situation. Every time we have come to a point when we had a ‘gap’ that needed filling, either something arrived in the mail or we found exactly the right thing in the shops. It’s been the same with food items. A few weeks ago I announced to the children that we would no longer be able to give them meat for a while as prices had rocketed so high (almost 4 times the previous price); we would now have to substitute with soya protein. Within a week someone gave us money with which to purchase meat for two weeks and then last Friday someone else sent us a huge quantity of beef which will last us for about 3 months, as well as cooking oil to last about the same length of time, and 20 litres of ice cream for Christmas. Tomorrow I am collecting another donation of ice cream, yoghurt and cheese. Our biggest headache at the moment is trying to find sufficient freezer and cold room space to store these blessings! As Fiona has been known to say at such times, ‘It’s hard work managing miracles, isn’t it?’!!

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For one of our family this will be her last Christmas with us. Tsitsi (Mercy) came to us as a tiny sick baby just over 18 years ago. We have watched the miracle of her life unfold through these past years as she has grown into a strong and responsible young lady. Over the past couple of years she has made a number of familiarisation visits to her grandmother who lives in a rural area some distance from us and during the first week of January she will be moving on to live with Granny. She is excited but, understandably, somewhat nervous. Pray that these last couple of weeks with us will be really special for Tsitsi, that everything the Lord wants to do in her life before the move will be completed and that her adjustment into rural family living will go smoothly.

A month ago today I received an early Christmas present (or some might say, one more responsibility!) when I was ‘adopted’ by a stray cat. She was found locked inside our sewing room. We have no idea how she got inside as there are no holes and the door and windows were all shut tightly. The last time anyone can remember opening the door to the room was about 3 – 4 weeks prior to when she was found. Despite being rather dehydrated, she seemed in fairly good shape and we thought she’d just run off when we opened the door but, no, she followed me. Being rather a softy in regards to cats,

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I fed her and of course she has taken up permanent residence. The vet checked her over and proclaimed her ‘a miracle’ for surviving as she did. I have named her Tiqvah, Hebrew for Hope. Some of the children are still a little nervous around her, not being used to cats, but others love visiting her, especially Anna (12) who is absolutely besotted and pops in almost every day for a kitty-cuddle. 

As we close out this year, we still face incredible difficulties in Zimbabwe…fuel shortages, price increases, unavailability of goods, an incredibly complicated and confusing economic situation….but as we look back at the continuing, unfailing timely provision of our needs and the miracles of lives like Tsitsi’s, we move into 2019 with great hope and expectancy. Thank you for continuing on this journey of miracles with us.

May this Christmas also be a time of expectant hope for you!

Lesley